Sure, Europe’s Justin Rose shot 4 under on Thursday to share the lead at the Tour Championship , and Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy slipped into the top 12 at 1 under, but Team America put on a show.
Tiger Woods also shot 4 under to lead while Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar finished the day a shot back at 3 under. Not only did Stricker and Kuchar play well, perhaps more importantly to Captain Love, they putted great. Kuchar said afterward, “It was a fantastic putting performance. I didn’t hit it my best, but thankfully my short game was great, and putting, in particular, was really strong.”
Brandt Snedeker also putted like a fiend to shoot 2 under, while Phil Mickelson hit some of the best iron shots of his life en route to shooting 1 under. “I’m hitting my irons really, really well,” Phil told me behind the East Lake clubhouse after Thursday’s round. “I only hit one bad putt all day, but I misread a lot of them. Hopefully I can get that corrected, because I’m hitting them on the line I want.”
Zach Johnson finished the day birdie-birdie to shoot 2 under, while Bubba Watson shot 33 on the back nine to get in at minus-1 along with Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson.
The only American Ryder Cupper to shoot over par on Thursday was Webb Simpson. But Simpson had five birdies in his 1-over round.
Again, it’s a long week and an even longer time until the first shot of the matches. But if being hot matters going in, the Americans have to like what they see.